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Blair on verge of third victory -

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Blair on verge of third victory

Reporter: Jane Hutcheon

TONY JONES: There are just two days to go before Britain's general election, and polls are
predicting an historic third victory for Labour despite continued criticism of the Prime Minister,
Tony Blair, over the Iraq war. But with his margin slipping, Mr Blair has been taking no chances,
warning Labour supporters not to cast protest votes that might see the party lose key seats. Our
London correspondent, Jane Hutcheon, reports.

JANE HUTCHEON: With thunder in Iraq hovering in the background, the election campaign has cast
clouds of uncertainty over Britain and its Prime Minister of eight years.

CLINT COOK, TAXI DRIVER: You should take any job that comes to you, it's a start, you know. It's

JANE HUTCHEON: Clint Cook has been a taxi driver for 18 years. He's a Conservative voter who feels
quality of life has plummeted under Tony Blair. For him, there are too many taxes and migrants on
social security. Then, there's Iraq.

CLINT COOK: The thing that really comes to my mind is that we shouldn't have gone there, because
there was no weapons of mass destruction ever found. I think the worst thing is that he's lied to
people, and you can't have someone like that running the country, that keeps lying to its people.

JANE HUTCHEON: The seeds of doubt are everywhere. Surprisingly for Tony Blair, even amongst
youngsters. 'Teflon Tony' is no more.

NICHOLAS JONES, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, is a wounded Prime Minister.
There is no doubt about it, that the word "lie" and "trust" have been hung round his neck in this
general election.

JANE HUTCHEON: But after years in the shadows, chancellor Gordon Brown has come to the rescue. He
was asked if he would have made the same decision as Mr Blair to go to war in Iraq.


TONY BLAIR: (Laughs) Right!

CROWD: (Laughs)

JANE HUTCHEON: If there's a feature of this election, it's how the voters will register their
disillusionment, because there's very little that sets apart the manifestos of the three main
parties. They would all boost pensions. Labour would further speed up medical treatment, and
supports the new European Union constitution, which the Tories oppose. Michael Howard also plans to
impose refugee and immigrant quotas. The Liberal Democrats, under Charles Kennedy, say they'll
scrap student tuition fees and revamp taxation. But most of these messages have been lost under a
swathe of un-British personal attacks, like this from the Conservative Party leader.

MICHAEL HOWARD, CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADER: When Mr Blair said "I have never lied", he was not
telling the truth.

TONY BLAIR: Every time they insult me, and our cause, I'm going to talk about the issues that
really affect the future of this country.

JANE HUTCHEON: Analyst Nicholas Jones attributes the tone of the Conservative campaign to
Australian election strategist Lynton Crosby.

NICHOLAS JONES: Lynton Crosby is very clever, and he understands the sorts of issues which are
going to motivate those floating voters, and he's not afraid of getting in there, stuck in there.
However untasteful or distasteful it might seem to Liberal Britain, he's going to go for it.

JANE HUTCHEON: But is Tory leader Michael Howard winning over voters with his charm?

SCHOOLBOY: Are you friends with Tony Blair?

MICHAEL HOWARD: Am I friends with Tony Blair?

CROWD: (Laughs)

MICHAEL HOWARD: Um, not exactly.

JANE HUTCHEON: Even our Conservative-voting cabbie has his doubts.

CLINT COOK: I think he's got some good policies, but again, you know, people are a bit wary for
him. I think we definitely need a change, whether it be Tory or Liberal Democrat, we need - people
say an alternative.

JANE HUTCHEON: Despite the desire for change, the opposition parties haven't yet overtaken Labour
in the polls. Like Clint Cook, Tony Blair looks set to be back in the driver's seat after
Thursday's election. Jane Hutcheon, Lateline.